How to Protect Trees from Dog Urine: 8 Tips

protect trees from dog urine

Whilst there have never been any scientific studies to how badly dog urine affects the health of trees, there’s enough anecdotal evidence in cities, on sidewalks, and outside apartment buildings to suggest dog pee can really damage trees.

Like me, you might let your pet have free access to a yard or garden, and the dog pee might be killing your trees. You could have angry neighbors who take exception to your dog using their tree as a pee spot. Perhaps you own an apartment block with trees that need saving from dog urine.

Whatever the case might be, if you want to know how to protect trees from dog urine, I’ve compiled all the best tips into one handy place – with solutions for your own dog, and other people’s! 

8 tips for protecting trees for dog urine

1. Fit a dog pee guard

One of the most popular ways in which you can protect trees from dog urine is by using a tree pee guard. These act as a fence which boxes in the tree, meaning the dog’s pee arc shouldn’t reach the bark.

The best one on the market is the Dawg Tree Pee Guard. It’s the biggest available and is the market leader. You can check it out on Amazon, or click the link below.

If the pee guard isn’t in stock, there are alternative products that are similar in saving a tree from dog urine. For example, there’s this tree guard on Amazon which looks smaller, but can be expanded for larger trees.

2. Give your dog “dog rocks”

If it’s your own dog that is urinating on your trees you could try adding dog rocks to their drinking water. This might sound strange, but check out how it works on Amazon.

What these do is help to remove some of the ammonia, nitrates, and other impurities from your dog’s pee. That means less of these elements are being ingested, and then deposited back onto your tree, possibly harming the bark.

3. Try a dog repellent

For other people’s dogs coming onto your property and peeing on your tree, you could try using animal repellent granules. They use natural substances that dogs are said to dislike such as peppers and capsaicin and are said to be abhorrent to their smell and taste.

Sprinkle the granules around the base of your tree and see if this helps to keep dogs from peeing on trees.

Like the other suggestions in this guide, animal repellent granules are available on Amazon.

4. Fit a water spraying motion sensor

Most dogs hate being sprayed with water. If it’s a neighbor’s dog and you don’t mind upsetting them, you could stand guard with a hose and give them a good spray any time they approach your trees.

Let’s be honest though, that probably won’t do too much for neighborly relations.

An alternative that is a little less aggressive and could also work with your own dog is a motion detector that makes noise and sprays. You just stick it in the ground, connect a hose to it, select a target radius, and sit back and wait.

What it then does it trigger as soon as an animal steps inside the target radius. It makes a noise and starts spraying water in an arc, enough to scare off a dog.

I’ve used this product (here’s what I bought on Amazon) to stop our cat from pooping on my lawn with mixed results. The reasons the results are mixed is because it’s ultra-sensitive and sprays human-sized objects as well, the minute they pass your yard or garden.

Definitely one to try out thought. Click the photo below to see the latest prices.

5. Pretend the grass has chemicals on it

One trick I read on a web forum has to be shared here too as it’s so cunning. What you do is put a sign on your lawn that makes out you’ve treated the area with chemicals.

What this should do is stop dog owners letting their animals onto your property, therefore saving the trees from dog urine. You can buy a sign on Amazon!

6. Designate a pee area with training

Back to tips on how you can protect trees from dog urine when it’s your own animal doing the deed, you could train them to pee in a new place.

Rather than put the training method here, I recommend you go read my training guide for teaching a dog to pee in a new spot.

7. Water down trees to wash away urine 

Another way you can protect trees from dog urine is by watering down the tree bark after it happens. Admittedly, this will require a lot of work and vigilance on your part, but water will help to dilute urine and the damage it causes to bark and roots. 

8. Use mulch that dogs don’t like treading on 

The last tip that might keep a dog peeing on your trees is to use mulch, but not just any old mulch. For example, classic mulch made up from tree chippings are very appealing to dogs as a pee spot, particularly once they get wet and smelly.

Instead you can try using a mulch made up from things that dogs won’t want to stand on, such as from prickly trees and bushes. Sprinkle this around the base of the tree, and it might discourage a dog from standing there, cocking a log, and peeing on the tree. 

Handy Hint: Despite what you might have heard, dog urine is not a good fertilizer for grass, plants, and trees. It will kill your lawn, but you can prevent it destroying your grass. 

Why does dog pee kill trees?

An article by John Metcalfe in 2012 attempted to get to the bottom of why dog pee kills trees. He concluded that there has never been a scientific study to answer the question properly, so the jury is still out.

However, he did manage to canvass the opinion of various experts who weighed in with their own views on why dog pee kills trees. I’ve compiled their opinion into my own words below.

  • Dog urine can kill tree bark: dog pee causes ammonium toxicity, damaging the cambium tissue under the bark. When the bark is lost, trees are more at risk from insects that burrow into the tree and bacterial disease.
  • Dog urine can dehydrate tree roots: salts in dog pee can make the topsoil harder for water to penetrate, meaning the tree’s root doesn’t get as much water as it needs to be healthy.
  • Dog urine can lower the soil’s pH value: trees need soil at a certain pH level, but dog urine can lower the levels. Reducing the pH levels by just a small amount can have an effect on tree health.

Trees that tend to see the most damage from urine and need the most protection from dog pee are those that are outside apartments. It’s because dog owners who live in shared living spaces won’t have their own yards or gardens. They will stand outside the apartment to let their dog relieve themselves, typically in the same place each time; a tree.

In fact, in the Metcalfe article I already referenced, he quotes a dog walker as saying:

“All over the city you can actually see evidence of burning on the trees. It’s super easy: Just look down, and at the lower foot or two feet of the tree you can see fissures and cracking. I first thought, well, maybe it’s just the salt, then you notice that the trees with cages around them don’t have these marks.”

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society think this is such a problem in their area that they set up an initiative to raise awareness in 2016. You can see their poster below which was used to help protect trees from dog urine in the city. 

how to protect trees from dog urine
This local authority created an awareness campaign to help protect trees in the city from dog urine.

Why do dogs pee on trees?

If it’s your own dog peeing on your trees, by understanding the reasons they do it, you might think you could to stop it.

However, this probably isn’t the case as the act of urinating on things is so far embedded in your dog’s psyche and evolution, that it’s not something you will be able to stop.

Canine experts believe dogs pee on trees and similar structures such as fire hydrants for a few reasons.

The first one is to mark their territory. When your dog urinates on a tree, particularly one in your yard of garden, then it could be his way of telling other dogs that this is his place.

Another possibility is that by peeing on a tree, a dog can tell another dog that they have been there. It’s kind of like a doggy bulletin board and is a social thing.

Apparently, your dog’s pee can give a lot of information to other dog’s such as their gender, as a unique identifier, and even if they are available to mate.

Handy Hint: Whilst dogs can damage trees, some trees can also be harmful to dogs. For example, acorns from an oak tree can poison a dog.

Conclusion

It’s very unlikely that you can train your own dog to stop peeing on trees altogether. There’s even less of a chance you can tell a stranger’s dog to stop doing it, which is why preventative methods are best.

Whilst I cannot guarantee that any of the tips for protecting trees from dog urine that I list here will work, you might want to try one or a combination to see if it works for you.

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Dogs have some irritating habits, some of which I’ve spoken about before with ways you might be able to get them to stop.

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-tree-animal-beautiful-4820617/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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